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Superintendent’s Budget Presentation

02 May

We’d like to provide some highlights from the 2012-13 RCS Central School District budget presentation that was done at the May 1, 2012 RCS Board of Education meeting by Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Smith.

(Editor’s Note: The entire BoE meeting can be viewed in streaming video with annoying pop-up avertisements at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/22276965.)

More on an Impossible School Budget

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Proverbs 27:12

According to the superintendent’s presentation, 72% of the budget is represented by salaries and benefits! Another 8% is for debt payments.

72% Is Salaries and Benefits!

In the current budget, compared to the previous year’s budget, there is a so-called gap of $2,274,272 (two million two hundred seventy four thousand two hundred seventy two dollars) that has to be closed. The way the superintendent proposes closing that gap is by “a combination of budget cuts and levies (tax increases).”

The so-called “gap.”

$2,050,552 in Lost Revenues You Have to Make Up For!

The superintendent mentions also that the district has lost $2,050,552 (two million fity thousand five hundred fifty two dollars) in revenues. 

The teachers have agreed to a 1/2-year pay freeze (total savings theoretically because it’s what they would have received not what they’re giving up! So it’s not a real savings but just a hold on more spending!) is something like $130,000. But it should be noted that the teachers recover this and more after the six months! It’s actually a loan on money they might have received but you are paying it out for real. Go figure!

Here’s the clincher: The budget last year contained some fudge figures to cover “if needed things” (see the slide below), actually fake allocations because they didn’t really exist. Here’s the joke: part of the cuts in personnel would be the jobs of low-income earners (non-instructional staff) whle the teachers (instructional staff) can look forward to pay increases. Is there something wrong with this picture?

There will be a 6.8% increase in the levy for this year. The pie-in-the-sky is that the Cogen Pilot Project will theoretically contribute to revenues next budget year. Do you want to bet your house on that one? If so, I have an extra bridge to sell you. But the superintendent tells us that the future tax levy will be about 2%. OK…and where are those flying pigs roosting in Coeymans today?

The Contingency Budget

If the 2012-13 budget is defeated with its 6.8% increase on May 15th, state law requires that the district revert to a contingency budget that does not allow a levy increase to a rate higher than the previous year (in other words, the levy will be the same as last year). But the RCS CSD will have to trim $1.5 million from the budget. According to the superintendent this would mean “less staff, fewer programs, larger class sizes.”

What will the $1.5 million look like? Well it would eliminate about 16 teachers at $63,000 each or 4 teachers from each school (= a couple more kids in each class. Currently there are an average of 19 children per class; more in some classes (up to 22), fewer in others). Or 30 non-instructional staff (average of $30K per year salary). This might mean that teachers may have to do some work! But think of it this way: one teacher earns more than twice what a non-intructional” employee (secretary, janitor, etc) earns and works only half the year! Now is that right?

Possible Areas for Cuts

It would mean also eliminating the late bus run to cart the kids in the 10th period help period home. Come on! Is a 10th period really necessary? Where are you parents anyway? Can’t parents do some parenting and help their own kids out? How about a parents consortium to meet in the library on a weekend to help out kids in need? Why do they need a 10th period to learn what they should have learned in the first 9 periods????

The full-day kindergarten a.k.a. taxpayer subsidized daycare to free up parents…for what? If full-day kindergarten were to go to half-day, it would eliminate 4 teachers and save more than $275,000! It might also keep some parents home to do some parenting and spend some time with their kids!

More Questions Raised Than Answered!

There are five candidates running for four seats on the RCS CSD Board of Education. Here are some highlights from their public statements:

Alice Whalen: Retired Teacher. Champion of the Teachers and the Teachers Association. Whalen claims to have “institutional knowledge and expertise.” But she also has allegiances to her friends and colleagues, the teachers special interest group. Why not do it this way: Get her off the BoE and call her in as an unpaid consultant when the board needs her “institutional knowledge and expertise.” Get a non-teacher parent or business person to fill her seat.

 Sunilda Swann: A local parent with children in the system. What bothered me with this one was that she opted not to tell the community about her qualifications but went on and on about her “philosophy.” Doesn’t tell us much except…well, it doesn’t tell us much. Swann raised more questions than she managed to answer. Maybe next time? Too vanilla for our tastes.

 Judy Sylvester: Yes!~Sylvester is active in many community activities and has grown up children who are the product of the RCS CSD system. Sylvester knows quite a bit about what’s going on where and she may is committed and dedicated to many other areas and can do the BoE a great deal of good. She is unflappable, honest and dedicated. She is knowledgeable and well informed. She’s a definite YES! in our opinion. Seems like Judy’s the only real sincere one in the entire group running!

Married to H. Engel’s Sister!

Edward Reville: Seems like a nice guy but there’ve been some disturbing reports of his associations. While he may bring some business or management expertise to the team, his associations with some Coeymans troublemakers might not be such a good thing. Is his wife a teacher, we wonder? We’ll have to learn more about him. But he does have some suspicious connections with Jerry Deluca and the Bartlett pair and attends their “secret society” meetings. Sounds like a rat to us! He’s connected directly with candidate teacher Howard Engel! How incestuous can it get?

Howard Engel: A teacher married to a teacher! Does it get worse. The positive angle is that he justifies being on the RCS board because he has three kids in the system and he doesn’t teach in this district. I don’t know if I buy that bridge but Hey! He’s a teacher, coach, substitute bus driver, parent, husband, etc. Perhaps he should spend more time on his lesson plans and do more teaching! Now there’s an idea. Besides, he’s related by marriage to another candidate, Edward “Teddy” Reville; that would make the BoE nicely incestuous, wouldn’t it?

With that mix of candidates, we might as well make the Board of Education a department of the RCS teachers association or a unit of the teachers union!!!!

Overall, the Budget Review was not very upbeat. There’s a lot of doom and gloom and a lot of unfairness, particularly when you look at the teachers compared to the guy on the street. Parents and community must carry some load and we have to dump some ballast or the whole ship is going to sink with us on it!

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We apologize for some of the screenshots. They may be more clear if you view the video (see link above).

 

5 responses to “Superintendent’s Budget Presentation

  1. Simon

    May 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I am still awaiting moderation? Must be still too many high school student messages in the queue….

     
    • Fides qua Creditur

      May 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      I believe all of your comments have been approved.

       
      • Simon

        May 4, 2012 at 7:54 am

        Nope… it appears just above as “still awaiting moderation”. Here it is again:

        Didn’t see the presentation, but there’s nothing really new there anyways.

        3/4 of the expenses in salary is normal for all schools – – educating is a very labor intensive activity.

        One point you make: “If the 2012-13 budget is defeated with its 6.8% increase on May 15th, state law requires that the district revert to a contingency budget…”

        This actually isn’t true. The slide you have a screenshot of describes the actual laws. State law gives you a “second chance”. If the budget goes down on 5/15, the BOE votes to put up a revised (upward or downward or even the same) budget, or go directly to contingency (contingency level derived from a wacky formula). On the state-wide revote day in June, if the budget goes down again, *then* you’re forced directly into the contingency levels. We’ve had history in RCS where the BOE opted not to revote. There has been history in the capital district where a public didn’t want programs cut, so the revote was at a *higher* levy rate than the one voted down (the revote passed).

        Perhaps you have “inside information” that the BOE does not intend to go to a revote in June and instead will go directly to contingency?

        As to your other points..

        10th period was made “mandatory” in favor of bring able to cancel the after-9th-period bus run. I don’t care if the bus run is after 9th or after 10th; I just don’t see the need for both. Personally? There’s no more labor costs wether or not there’s a 10th. I say keep the 10th period bus run, and don’t bring back the 9th period run. Schedule the kids for instructional time rather than “free study” time as it is now. Let’s get the kids in “real” classes for as long as we can for our education dollar.

        As for Kindergarten? Much of what’s wrong with kids these days is because of lack of parental involvement. My kid excelled in K. But I honestly think that had just as much to do with our (kid’s parents) involvement as it did the system. But I’m not necessarily prepared to throw away the program. If you do that, 1st grade will just be the K year but the kids are a little older. As a side point, last I knew Pre-K and K were both not state mandated. You could technically throw 100% of it away.

        I recall a period of time 10 years ago how we actually had too MUCH money int he RCS coffers, and had to come up with things to spend it down (apparently returning it to the taxpayers was lost on these people at the time). That’s the kind of situation we’re in now – – spending of “extra” money in the fat times which makes it hard to cut back in the lean times.

        As for the candidates, I have not done my full research yet. But as I have discussed in a prior post, I am not a fan of overweighting the BOE in any aspect. Teachers are very passionate in their jobs, and just as I’m passionate in mine, that sometimes isn’t compatible with fiscal responsibility. It helps to have education-trained people on the BOE in order to provide perspective, but you need to have a balance of “types” of people in order to keep a good level on the spigot.

        By the way, I object to the idea being put around there by the pro-budget folks saying that this is a “one time dip” and “your taxes may actually go down next year when the cogen money is back”. We’ve all been around enough to know that there will be magic expenses next year to take up any extra money we get. The fact RCS might be somewhat normalized in income next year should not dissuade them from making responsible decisions.

        In summary, while I will be voting “yes” on the budget, I will defend you and other’s right to dissent and vote “no”. It will be interesting to see what happens.

        S (quickly becoming a guest blogger?)

         
      • Fides qua Creditur

        May 4, 2012 at 8:18 am

        Please accept our apologies, S. for having approved your comment so late. We were distracted by daycare responsibilities and babysitting.

        As usual, you have some great insights and we liked your comment about being a “guest blogger.” We could do much, much worse ;) Keep’em coming–you provide some welcome balance.

         
  2. Simon

    May 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Didn’t see the presentation, but there’s nothing really new there anyways.

    3/4 of the expenses in salary is normal for all schools – - educating is a very labor intensive activity.

    One point you make: “If the 2012-13 budget is defeated with its 6.8% increase on May 15th, state law requires that the district revert to a contingency budget…”

    This actually isn’t true. The slide you have a screenshot of describes the actual laws. State law gives you a “second chance”. If the budget goes down on 5/15, the BOE votes to put up a revised (upward or downward or even the same) budget, or go directly to contingency (contingency level derived from a wacky formula). On the state-wide revote day in June, if the budget goes down again, *then* you’re forced directly into the contingency levels. We’ve had history in RCS where the BOE opted not to revote. There has been history in the capital district where a public didn’t want programs cut, so the revote was at a *higher* levy rate than the one voted down (the revote passed).

    Perhaps you have “inside information” that the BOE does not intend to go to a revote in June and instead will go directly to contingency?

    As to your other points..

    10th period was made “mandatory” in favor of bring able to cancel the after-9th-period bus run. I don’t care if the bus run is after 9th or after 10th; I just don’t see the need for both. Personally? There’s no more labor costs wether or not there’s a 10th. I say keep the 10th period bus run, and don’t bring back the 9th period run. Schedule the kids for instructional time rather than “free study” time as it is now. Let’s get the kids in “real” classes for as long as we can for our education dollar.

    As for Kindergarten? Much of what’s wrong with kids these days is because of lack of parental involvement. My kid excelled in K. But I honestly think that had just as much to do with our (kid’s parents) involvement as it did the system. But I’m not necessarily prepared to throw away the program. If you do that, 1st grade will just be the K year but the kids are a little older. :) As a side point, last I knew Pre-K and K were both not state mandated. You could technically throw 100% of it away.

    I recall a period of time 10 years ago how we actually had too MUCH money int he RCS coffers, and had to come up with things to spend it down (apparently returning it to the taxpayers was lost on these people at the time). That’s the kind of situation we’re in now – - spending of “extra” money in the fat times which makes it hard to cut back in the lean times.

    As for the candidates, I have not done my full research yet. But as I have discussed in a prior post, I am not a fan of overweighting the BOE in any aspect. Teachers are very passionate in their jobs, and just as I’m passionate in mine, that sometimes isn’t compatible with fiscal responsibility. It helps to have education-trained people on the BOE in order to provide perspective, but you need to have a balance of “types” of people in order to keep a good level on the spigot.

    By the way, I object to the idea being put around there by the pro-budget folks saying that this is a “one time dip” and “your taxes may actually go down next year when the cogen money is back”. We’ve all been around enough to know that there will be magic expenses next year to take up any extra money we get. The fact RCS might be somewhat normalized in income next year should not dissuade them from making responsible decisions.

    In summary, while I will be voting “yes” on the budget, I will defend you and other’s right to dissent and vote “no”. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    S (quickly becoming a guest blogger?)

     

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